Mary, Mother of Jesus [Exploring The Chosen with Youth]

Updated: Aug 14

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A toast at the wedding banquet
"A toast at the wedding banquet," from:

In contrast to how popular Protestant Evangelicalism tends to deemphasize Mary, The Chosen presents us with a picture of Jesus' relationship to his mother that is compelling and beautiful. Of course, in doing so, The Chosen is simply being faithful to how the Gospels themselves depict the relationship between Jesus and Mary. Sadly, Protestants have sometimes been more concerned about defining themselves in reaction against Roman Catholicism than they have been with faithfully representing certain elements of the biblical story.

As someone who grew up in Roman Catholicism, I certainly understand how reverence for Mary can get distorted. And yet I also understand how easy it is as a post-Catholic Evangelical to not just be pro-Bible but to actually be anti-Catholic, determined to stomp on the sacred cows of Rome because of ones own spiritual fragility. A good Bible Artist, just like a good interpreter, shouldn't be driven by such insecurity. Art should be willing to follow the direction of the biblical narratives wherever they lead, and we ourselves should also be willing to learn from the insights of other theological traditions rather than fearing them. Fortunately for us, The Chosen seems to be doing just that, giving us a depiction of Mary that is balanced, human, and beautiful. This makes it a perfect conversation starter to help youth think about how the son of God, in taking on human flesh, also became a son of human parents and what he has to teach us about relating to our own mothers and fathers.

Intro to The Chosen Season 1 Episode 5: Imagining Jesus' Mother

To begin ask your students the questions below and note what they share on a whiteboard (real or virtual):

  • What are some ways that parents should care for their children? (from infancy until death)

  • What are some ways that children should honor their parents? (from childhood until death)

Your list will ideally contain activities from a wide range of life stages, from changing diapers and wiping a baby's butt during infancy to giving advice and wisdom at later stages of life. If your youth aren't thinking broadly enough, you may want to ask them stage by stage (i.e. what are some ways parents should take care of a baby? what are some ways parents should take care of a toddler? etc.). The more diverse and earthy your list is, the more impactful the next stage of discussion will be.

Point out to your youth:

  • During Christmas season we talk a lot about Jesus being born and the rest of the time we usually focus on his adult ministry during the last three years of his life. But in between Jesus' birth and death this [point at your lists] is what was going on in his life.

  • Jesus' mother, Mary, didn't just give birth to Jesus (tough as that must have been - especially back then!), she also nurtured and raised him for over thirty years.

  • We don't get many stories about those thirty years because most of the stuff on this list isn't really the kind of stuff that you write stories about. Mary's life raising Jesus was pretty ordinary.

  • It's not totally clear how much Mary understood about her son's divine nature, but, based on Luke 1-2, what does seem clear is that Mary knew her son was meant to be God's promised Messiah.

Now ask your students:

  • When you think of Jesus, do you often think about how he needed all of this? [refer to the parenting list] Are there any that are weird for you to think about? (eg. Jesus needed someone to wipe his butt, feed him food, teach him words)

  • How do you think it would have felt for Mary to do all of this for someone she believed was meant to be God's promised King?

  • When you think of Jesus, do you often think about how he must have honored Mary and Joseph in many of these ways throughout his life? [refer to the honoring parents list] Are there any of these that are weird for you to think about? (eg. Jesus respected his parents and listened to their advice, even though he was more righteous than they were)

To sum up this section, explain:

  • Ancient Christians used to think a lot about Mary. Painters, sculptors, and poets loved to imagine and depict her role in Jesus' life. Today, however, we don't see as much attention to Jesus' mother - at least among Evangelical Protestants.

  • This in large part is due to differences between Evangelical Protestants and Catholics. Catholics have several traditions about Mary, like the belief that she was sinless when she gave birth to Jesus or that we should pray to Mary. Protestants don't hold to these traditions because they don't have a basis in the Bible - they were invented many years later.

  • Because Mary is so important in Catholicism, Protestants have sometimes gone to the opposite extreme, under-appreciating her role in the Bible. We also haven't continued the rich tradition of depicting Mary in art and literature.

  • The Chosen was directed by an Evangelical Protestant, but he seems to appreciate the important role of Mary in Jesus' life. The episode we'll be watching today seeks to highlight their relationship.

Viewing The Chosen Season 1 Episode 5

Due to COVID restrictions, my youth group watched The Chosen online using Zoom. You can find episode 5 on YouTube here. If you want to avoid the ads (there's a lot!) or the need to stream it, you can find it on Amazon.

While watching The Chosen, I made occasional comments through the chat but I tried to not do too much teaching. I wanted the youth to enjoy it and not just see The Chosen as an elaborate preaching illustration. For the most part, I just clarified who characters were and occasionally I briefly explained a reference or allusion that was confusing to my youth.

Discussing The Chosen Season 1 Episode 5

To begin your discussion, ask your youth:

  • What did you think of the episode? What stuck out to you?

  • What did you notice about how Mary talked about and treated her son, Jesus?

  • What did you notice about how Jesus talked about and treated his mother, Mary?

Give these questions some space. If you need to, you might want to walk your students through a few key moments from the episode. You could even replay a couple moments. For example:

  • The opener, when Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple

  • How Jesus describes his mother to his disciples

  • How Mary talks about Jesus with her friend

  • When Jesus and Mary first meet at the wedding

  • When Mary urges Jesus to help and they talk about his "time"

After discussing these moments, point out to your students:

  • The story in this episode is taken from the Gospel of John. In John's Gospel, we see Mary present at both the beginning and the ending of Jesus' earthly ministry.

Now share these two passages:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:1-5 ESV)
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:26-30 ESV)

After reading these passages together, ask:

  • Have these passages or the episode affected how you imagine the relationship between Jesus and his mother, Mary?

  • What does all of this reveal to us about Jesus?

Have these posts about The Chosen helped you understand The Chosen or explore it with your ministry or family? Would you consider giving a few bucks to support my work as a writer? It's really simple to do using my account on Buy Me a Coffee. Thanks so much!

If you liked this post, I've done several other posts on The Chosen that you might want to check out, including explorations of how the show adapts key biblical characters and guides on how to lead your youth group in discussing each episode of The Chosen Seasons 1 & 2. You may also be interested in some of my other content on adaptation and youth ministry.

Adapting Biblical Characters Series

Exploring the Chosen with Youth [Guides for Youth Leaders]

Season 2

Season 1

Posts on the Nature of Adaptation

Youth Ministry and the Arts